Do you remember your first time teaching a class?

My first time teaching a fitness class was when I was sixteen years old.

I started teaching fitness classes in high school.  My physical education teacher saw my potential and encouraged me to follow my interests.

I got my first paid teaching position at a gym in my neighborhood.  I was all pumped up.  I had new running shoes and workout clothes. I had my music cued up ready to go and I practiced for hours in my living room.  I remember the moment and feeling when I stepped in front of my first class.  I was incredibly nervous.  I had thirty pairs of eyes staring at me to lead them into a good workout.  The studio had no walls and opened into a busy free weight area.  There were a lot of onlookers.

I hit play for my music.  I stood in front of this group of people and started teaching exactly as in my living room.  My mouth was dry. I had a hard time catching my words and my cueing.  After a few minutes a couple of people left.  Then, a few moments later more people left.  At the end, there were two people who finished the entire class.

I was horrible! I was completely crushed by this experience.  To add salt to my wounds, I ran into the changing room crying over my experience and overheard the other instructor’s commentary of my class bombing. I remember going home and telling my mom, I am never going to teach a fitness class again!

This moment was my catalyst for change and growth. Years later, my career revolved around teaching fitness classes, educating, and empowering others through group fitness and personal training. I went to university for Kinesiology and Adult Education.  My first career was working at the YMCA for thirteen years. I got to shine and grow as an instructor and as an individual.

I love to teach. I love to teach fitness classes, workshops, and courses. I value adult education and all the ways that learning can improve one’s vitality and well-being. I’ve learnt to capture all the great parts of my personality through how I set up my cuing, music, and sequencing. I worked hard at it and I made it my priority to be the best.

After many years, fitness studios, running shoes, tapes, CDs, and iPods;  after the thousands of boxing, spinning, Pilates, gravity, muscle conditioning, yoga and step classes, I knew I was meant to be doing this work. This was one part of my life purpose.

My first teaching experience was a catalyst to move me from being a novice to being GREAT at teaching. Now, things have changed for me.  My body has changed.  My life experiences have brought new and different insights to who I am and who I want to be. It is a priority for any instructor to develop a strong foundation of self-love and self-care.  It’s natural to give so much of yourself away as an instructor.   It is easy to forget to take care of yourself first.  This was the MOST important lesson.  If the foundation of your self-love, self-esteem, and if self-care is not established, burning out will be a reality for you.  In my eyes, if you do not know and reflect the values of vitality and your authentic self, how can you support others to do the same?

Along the way, there are other equally important lessons I’ve learnt on my journey:

  • Value Your Trials and Tribulations – Every instructor is different.  It’s important to embrace those days when someone leaves your class unsatisfied or complains to others.  These are gifts of great lessons. It’s a gift because these participants are there to help you find ways to deal with your own mind chatter.  When we put our minds in a position to find the answers, clarity clears the way.
  • One Third – There is a theory out there that one third of clients attending your classes love you, one third of clients are neutral, and one third may dislike you. This has nothing to do with you.  What can we learn from this? It’s important to remember to cater to the clients that are supportive of you and your efforts.
  • Be Perfectly Imperfect – At a certain point in my teaching career, I started to purposely mix up my cueing or do something to throw my participants off.  I learnt to incorporate imperfection. I find when you throw in an imperfection, you teach your clients to be gentle and laugh at themselves.  There is room for laughter and lightheartedness everywhere.  Try it next time you teach, and see how it changes your mood, but also the energy of the class.
  • Be Present.  My last learning from my teaching career is to BE PRESENT NOW!  Each time you teach be present.  Breathe in every moment.  Notice your voice, people’s energy, the smell of the room, the temperature, and find ways to slip in a laugh or giggle.  Enjoy the moment, and it will serve you far greater than you know.

Share your first time with others! 

Do you remember your first time teaching? Were you 100% confident? Were you nervous? Do you recall any interesting moments or funny stories? Please share about your first time teaching experiences with others. Just scroll down the page to the comments section.

“FOCUS ON SERVICE.  Your soul desires only to joyfully serve, and to swim in a constant stream of bliss.  This stream continuously feeds you everything you need.  Put your entire focus upon staying in this stream of giving and receiving in every situation, and in all that you do.”

–Doreen Virtue


Gillian-3Gillian Witter B.Kin, M.Ed.

A deeply passionate soul who loves to empower other’s vitality.  Gillian started her life purpose teaching fitness classes at the age of sixteen. A wealth of knowledge and experience as a Director of Health, Fitness and Recreation, she moved into roles such as the Group Fitness Expert in Programming for the eight YMCAs of  Greater Toronto, and a YMCA Canada Trainer of Trainers. Including the joy of teaching the business of fitness at Humber College.  With a background in spiritually-based psychotherapy and healing, she is also consulting as an intuitive tarot card and tea leaf reader to balance the mind, body, and spirit.


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